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Osaka rallies to stage her second great escape in Paris

Osaka rallies to stage her second great escape in Paris

The Belarusian, who had knocked out 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko in the first round, then saved three set points in the 12th game before Osaka levelled the contest with a pinpoint, down the line victor.

Stadium workers spray the clay court during the third round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Sloane Stephens of the USA and Slovenia's Polona Hercog at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Friday, May 31, 2019.

Asked about it after the win over Nara, she said: "I'm not going to get into that".

Of the six, only eighth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina needed five sets, taking down Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in a match that lasted almost four hours.

Azarenka won her first match against Osaka at the Australian Open back in 2016 but the Japanese star levelled their head-to-head, dropping just three games in a second round win on clay in Rome previous year.

She became the first top seed to win her two opening matches at Roland Garros after losing the first set since Lindsay Davenport in 2005.

"I never played against him, and I did watch him play maybe once or twice".

"For me, I have always wanted to play her while she was at her best".

"Today I kind of felt like a challenger", said the self-effacing Japanese star.

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"It was unfortunate that this was a second-round match but I am happy I won".

Azarenka, still working her way back into the upper echelons of the game after injuries, a pregnancy and a custody battle over her child, said she would learn from the defeat.

Naomi Osaka stayed on course for a third successive Grand Slam title and Novak Djokovic a fourth at the French Open on Thursday but their paths to the third round could not be more different. In the stands, her mom, Tamaki, took deep breaths to calm her nerves, and her worries were soon dissipated on match point when Osaka placed a serve down the T, forcing her opponent's shot to trail long. "I'm still kind of new at this". Osaka is now the world no 1 whereas Katerina Siniakova is ranked world no 42.

In other matches on the main show courts, Serena Williams takes on Japan's Kurumi Nara while men's top seed Novak Djokovic meets Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland.

"I knew she was playing well". Djokovic's potential semifinal foe, No. 4 Dominic Thiem, outlasted tricky Kazakh Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 7-5.

When Azarenka sprinted for a cross-court forehand victor that closed a 15-stroke exchange, she led 4-2 in the second set after 77 minutes.

"I called my mom in like the second round, and I was like, 'Do you wanna come to Australia?"

Asked whether a third-round appearance was satisfactory, given her issues, Williams not surprisingly said it was not. And especially at this phase of my career, it's Grand Slams, and try to play my best tennis in these tournaments that are historically the biggest events and the most important events in our sport.